Monday, December 5, 2016

The Killing Floor - Lee Child (Jack Reacher #1)

Killing Floor (Jack Reacher, #1)The Killing Floor is the fist book in the Jack Reacher series, and it was a book my mother had mentioned she was interested in reading, so I picked it for a reading challenge category.  I'm coming to it nearly twenty years after it was first published, but I have to say that I wasn't terribly impressed with it as a whole.  There were aspects of the mystery that I didn't have quite pinned down, but I had an idea of them, and other parts of it were glaringly clear.

But here's the thing: it's not a bad book.  But it's very generic and the writing isn't particularly riveting.  It was Child's first book, so I can completely understand that.  Reading my favorite author's first books at this point in life makes me wince, though I can definitely trace her growth as a writer over time.  But for this particular one...  The writing is very stilted, the sentences choppy--though complete, which is more than I can say for some books I've read this year--and Reacher as a character just grated on my nerves.  He has a massive superiority complex to everyone around him, who are all cardboard cutouts of characters.  He also seems to have a detrimental effect on everyone around him.  When he stumbles into a problem occurring in a small town, he manages to convince the few honest people he encounters--who are cops, nonetheless--to be okay with at least a dozen murders, several arsons, and a dozen other crimes to boot, and then to just let him walk away.  That's something that most thriller/mystery books never seem to get right: the legal aftermath.  But this book seems to get it even wrong-er than most, if for on other reason than the sheer scale of what the aftermath would have realistically been.

It's another recurring pet peeve of mine that in mysterious no one ever seems to call in backup.  Case in point here: despite the main plot revolving around a massive counterfeiting scheme, Reacher and his cronies spend their time doing everything except the one thing that actually makes sense: calling the Secret Service.  Instead they apparently think that Treasury bureaucrats and university professors will do a better job of solving their problems.  And Child can't really play it off as if the thought that the Secret Service was corrupt; it's pretty clear from early on that the counterfeiting is a small, local operation.  It's one of those things that just grated on my nerves for the duration of the book, and I couldn't get over it.  Someone like Reacher, who apparently spent decades working in military police, should have known better.  But apparently, because he's no longer in the military and doesn't have a permanent home, he's free to do whatever he wants, and damn the consequences.  Honestly, what he and his buddies did her merits a coverup at least as big as that of the counterfeiting scheme--they did destroy several million dollars, on top of everything else--but no one seems to care, at all.  What?

First books can be rough.  I get it.  But something that I do expect in a first book, even though the writing might not be as polished as that of an established author (and, let's be honest here, there are plenty of authors that debut with beautifully written books, so we can still only push that one so far) is that they be thoughtful, and this was not that.  This is clearly a massively popular series (I believe a movie adaptation of one of the later ones came out recently) but it's obviously not something that's up my alley, and I think I'll be skipping most of these.

1.5 stars out of 5.

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